Community memorial continues to grow for Charlie Cortez

By Micheal Rios & Niki Cleary

The Tulalip Marina is home to an ever-growing memorial dedicated to the memory of Fish and Wildlife Officer Charlie Cortez. Overlooking the bay and a fleet of fishing boats, community members have contributed a number of heartfelt items to the memorial.

From the blue plastic cups that spell out ‘CORTEZ’ in the chain link fence to the two thin blue line flags gently flowing in the breeze to all blue balloons and flower bouquets, the sentiment of Blue Lives Matter, a movement representing police solidarity and recognition for all law enforcement who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice, is visually captivating on such revered ground. 

The marina tribute was established soon after the community was notified Tulalip had suffered its first ever death by an officer in the line of duty.

On evening of November 17, two officers with Tulalip Police Department’s Fish and Wildlife division were following another boat into the Everett Marina to ensure the fishermen reached port. Officers Shawn Edge and Charlie Cortez were returning to Tulalip Bay when a rogue wave hit their 24ft patrol vessel, causing it to capsize. Both men were thrown into the water.

Officer Edge, boat operator and captain, was located and rescued near Hat Island by Tulalip fishermen. He was immediately transported to the hospital and is currently recovering. Officer Cortez is still missing and presumed deceased.

“As our search and rescue effort transitioned to a search and recovery, we are heartbroken. Our people are connected to the water and we know what we risk when we go out. We lost a good man, a father, brother and son,” said Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “Our hands go up to the many fisherman and rescue workers who continue to answer the call to find our missing officer. In the face of tragedy, our community came together and we will continue to come together as we take care of his family.”

A coordinated search and recovery effort continues today with multiple agencies, in addition to numerous tribal fishing vessels from Tulalip and neighboring tribes.

“Charlie was a wonder man and officer. We are devastated by this loss,” said Chief Sutter. “Tulalip Fish and Wildlife are often called upon to conduct searches such as this one. I know Charlie would have been there for you, and I can’t say thank you enough to the many individuals and agencies that came together to be there for him. The search for our missing officer will continue until he is brought home.”

The Tulalip community can’t express enough our gratitude for all those who have chosen to continue assisting in the search, both on land and sea. Our search continues. 

If you choose to search, please help us by continuing to check in and share the details of your search. Tulalip fishermen, please continue to text 360-926-5059, or check in with Tulalip Fisheries or Robert Myers. Other volunteers, please describe your search details by emailing or leaving a voice mail at (909) 294-6356. 

If you find the following clothing similar to the following, please call in an eye-witness report to the non-emergency line (425) 407-3999.

  • Black Stocking Cap with an embroidered Gold Star
  • Black zip up outer vest (bullet proof) with Gold Star and “C Cortez” on it in Gold
  • Dark Blue shirt with embroidered Gold Star and “C Cortez” on it in Gold
  • Dark Blue coat with markings (possible embroidered Gold star and “C Cortez” in Gold on it) Dark Blue Pants
  • Black Boots with laces and possible zipper on sides
  • Black Under Armour T-shirt